Side dishes can take a simple meal to the next level, adding flavor, texture, and variety to complement the main course. The best ones are easy to make using pantry staples, come together quickly so you don’t spend all day cooking, and taste amazing — even picky eaters will go back for seconds.
Below are eight quick and easy crowd-pleasing side dishes that take little time but taste so good! These versatile recipes will become weeknight regulars. Let’s take a look.
1. Garlic Bread
Warm, crusty garlic bread instantly elevates any meal. To make it, start by mincing 3-4 cloves of garlic. Mix the garlic with about three tablespoons of softened butter.
Slice a loaf of baguette into 1-inch thick slices. Spread the garlic butter evenly over each slice of bread. Place the slices on a baking sheet and broil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Keep your eye on it so the garlic doesn’t burn.
The bread comes out of the oven hot, crisp, and fragrant. Serve the garlic bread alongside pasta, soup, or salad, or enjoy it on its own as a snack.
2. Corn on the Cob
Take advantage of fresh sweet corn with corn on the cob in the summer. Shuck the corn, removing all the silk strands. If this is your first time preparing corn at home, learning how to boil corn on the cob can be easier than learning how to grill it.
To enjoy grilled corn; first mix melted butter with desired seasonings, like chili powder, cayenne, lime juice, chopped herbs, or grated parmesan. Brush the mixture all over each ear of corn, then grill the corn over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until lightly charred in spots.
3. Roasted Vegetables
Nearly any veggie tastes delicious when tossed with olive oil and roasted at high heat until caramelized on the edges.
Try roasting broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, zucchini, eggplant, or bell peppers. Slice the vegetables, brush them with oil, season with salt, pepper, and herbs like rosemary or thyme, then roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. The high heat helps bring out the natural sweetness in the vegetables.
You can roast just one type of veggie or do a mix for a hearty, satisfying side.
4. Skillet Cornbread
Warm cornbread straight from the skillet is a beloved side dish in the American South. To make it, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and milk. Fold in melted butter and beaten egg.
For a crispy crust, heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with oil or more butter. Pour in the batter and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the cornbread is golden brown.
5. Fried Rice
Take leftover rice from last night’s dinner and give it new life as quick fried rice.
Heat oil in a skillet or wok over high heat. Add diced veggies like onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic, and stir-fry. Add the cold rice and break up any clumps with a spatula. Toss everything together, letting the rice get crispy in spots.
Season with soy sauce and sesame oil, and garnish with scallions. In just 10 minutes, boring rice becomes an addictive stir-fry.
6. Potato Salad
Cool, creamy potato salad is the perfect summer side for backyard barbecues.
Dice boiled potatoes while still warm so they absorb the dressing. Toss with mayonnaise, mustard, chopped onion, celery, pickles, hard-boiled egg and fresh herbs. Chill for at least an hour until ice cold.
You can bring it to a potluck or serve it alongside grilled meats. Swap out regular mayo for a tangy, lighter Greek yogurt-based dressing. Add your favorite mix-ins like bacon, sweet pickle relish, vinegar, or mustard for flavor.
Crunchy coleslaw adds freshness and texture to balance out rich, heavy dishes. Thinly slice green and red cabbage, carrots, onion, and bell pepper. Toss the veggies with a creamy mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper dressing.
The crisp, tangy side pairs perfectly with barbecue, fried chicken, or fish tacos.
8. Caesar Salad
A classic Caesar salad is a crowd-pleasing addition to any meal. Start by tearing romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Make the dressing in a bowl by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Dijon, anchovies and parmesan. Toss the lettuce with the dressing for a light coating. Top with croutons and extra shaved parmesan.
Side dishes provide balance, variety, and flavor to complete any plate. You can prepare quick sides that lend a homemade touch to weeknight dinners with minimal time and effort. These eight crowd-pleasing sides offer ease, nutrition, and endless customization. With go-to recipes like these in your repertoire, you’ll look forward to cooking – and eating – every night.